UPDATED with Fox statement: The opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup today featured a welcome speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin, lots of dancing, and UK pop star Robbie Williams flipping the bird – and Fox is sorry for that.
The gesture came as Williams performed on the field at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow ahead of the opening game between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which kicked off the tournament that runs through July 15. It apparently didn’t air in the UK but it very much did live on U.S. airwaves on Fox.
“The 2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony was a newsworthy event produced by a third party and carried live on Fox,” a spokesperson for Fox Sports told Deadline on Thursday. “As it was broadcast live, we did not know what would happen during Robbie Williams’ performance and we apologize.”
The Rupert Murdoch-owned company and Telemundo hold U.S. English- and Spanish-language rights, respectively, to the 2018 World Cup.
Williams’ hand move was hard to miss — the singer did it right into the camera that was in front of him while singing his hit “Rock DJ.” He appeared to have altered the lyrics too — something about “I did this for free” before letting the finger fly. He also glanced on the giant screens above the crowd as if to check out his, er, handiwork.
Williams, who is rumored to be joining the judging panel on the UK’s The X-Factor for its next cycle, also sang his “Let Me Entertain Me” and “Feel” and dueted with Russian opera star Aida Garifullina on “Angels” during the pre-game festivities.
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